Utah Governor Declares State of Emergency Following Violent Protest in Salt Lake City

Protesters with police officers near the district attorney's office Thursday, July 9, 2020, in Salt Lake City. Two police officers in Utah were cleared earlier Thursday in the death of Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, an armed man shot at more than 30 times as he ran from police, a decision that prompted …
Rick Bowmer/AP Photo

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) declared a state of emergency on Thursday after demonstrators in Salt Lake City clashed with police following the district attorney clearing officers involved in the shooting death of 22-year-old Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal.

On Thursday, the governor declared a state of emergency due to “civil unrest.” The order ultimately closes the Utah State Capitol grounds to the general public until July 14 and offers “assistance from state government to political subdivisions as needed and coordinated by the Utah Department of Public Safety, and other state agencies as necessary.”

Protesters clashed with officers following District Attorney Sim Gill’s announcement that officers were justified in the May 23 shooting of Palacios-Carbajal — an armed man who was shot by officers as he attempted to flee the scene:

District Attorney Sim Gill said Palacios-Carbajal was struck 13 to 15 times as he ran away from Salt Lake City police officers who were investigating a gun-threat call and had yelled for him to drop a gun.

Two officers, Neil Iversen and Kevin Fortuna, fired their weapons at Palacios-Carbajal when they confirmed he had a gun in his possession, Gill said. The weapon could be seen on top of Palacios-Carbajal’s body after the shooting, according to body camera footage Gill presented Thursday.

Gill offered condolences to the family shortly before he announced the determination that the shooting was justified.

“In the case of the Salt Lake City Officer Involved Critical Incident that resulted in the death of Bernardo Palacios Carbajal, District Attorney Sim Gill’s findings provide significant evidence of the justifiable actions of Salt Lake City police officers,” Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall (D) said in a statement following the district attorney’s conclusion.

“This evidence shows that our officers acted according to their training and the state law regarding use of lethal force,” the mayor continued.

“I know that for some, today’s decision does not feel like justice,” Mendenhall added. “It has become increasingly apparent in our city and across the nation that there is a difference between what so many feel is morally correct, and what is considered appropriate and justified under the law.”

Demonstrators took to the streets on Thursday in protest, vandalizing the district attorney’s office and clashing with police officers, throwing bottles and, in some instances, pepper-spraying them.

“Officers are sustaining injuries and have been sprayed with pepper spray,” the Salt Lake City Police Department announced. “A medical team is responding to assist.”

Police made at least two arrests, according to the department.

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